Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Blog drought

No I've neither gone missing nor am I dead. I'm just super busy, got a soar throat, meanwhile I'm overloaded with work. I haven't had time for much more than work lately (the sore throat put an abrupt end to my morning gym routine). The Expo is around the corner (starts this Sat) so this situation is self-explanatory. I hope that after May 1 things will slow down a little, although I am pretty sure they won't. 

The Expo has already had its soft opening: thousands and thousands of people cramming the Expo area and resulting in nightmare-like photos spreading like a wildfire on the net. It'll be interesting to see what happens when the gates open for real. I'll be working at the Expo area on Saturday, so I promise to give you a report on how things were on Sunday.  

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Chinese food art

or this?! I know my choice!

Some days ago I went to a real fancy, Chinese restaurant. I might be the only one thinking like this here in China, but I really feel that the fancier the place, the worse the food. Since I was attending this dinner as a guest I didn’t have to worry about paying for these overdone dishes, but I felt for the man who did.

Some of the stuff we ate includes:

Goose’s feet (basically soft skin and bones. So fatty I felt my stomach turn as I was munching away), giant prawns covered in mayo (I love the prawns but hate the mayo. Mayo should be forbidden here in China! They put it on everything, like fruit salad for instance, and also, they put way too much!), stinky soup with a green lake-like vegetable that you were not supposed to eat (although no one told me that until I had forced down about half of mine), and sweet/sour cucumber peel. Also, when out on a dinner like this there is simply no turning back. I ate to be polite and to save our precious, professional relationship from being ruined. This, however, is far from the first (or last) time I’ve been in this situation.

For someone who generally loves simple dishes like sliced potatoes 土豆丝, eggplant pot 茄子煲 and mala tofu 麻辣豆腐 (and then down everything with a bowl of plain, fluffy rice!) eating at a fancy restaurant is quite troublesome. For starters, I can forget about my rice bowl. When dishes are so "good" (and expensive) there’s no way I can ask for a bowl of rice on the side. Second of all, the fancier the place, the weirder the dishes. While we were munching goose’s feet the other week, our host told us that these sort of dishes were the best of the best in China: “the more complicated, the better! This is Chinese food art!” And third of all: at a fancy restaurant there is no such thing as leaving leftovers or “not liking” the food. You eat to show your appreciation and to make your host happy. I almost had to start a war the other week when we had finished our food and the host suggested I’d take the leftovers home with me as “takeaway.”

This experience is far from my only one of that kind in China. I’ve been to numerous similar dinners, and I’ve downed everything from pig’s ear (disgusting –there’s a reason why we use that as a dog snack in Sweden) to some kind of jelly fish (after trying to chew it and realizing that it was impossible I had to swallow it with a cup of tea) and duck's tongue (still don't get what there was to eat on that one?). I love the idea of meetings over dinner, but next time I’m going to insist on picking the restaurant and settling for a simpler place.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Raffles Design Institute's Graduate Fashion Show

One might think that Shanghai’s fashion fever is over, with Shanghai Fashion Week wrapping up with a big party at Muse on Tue night. But then I received an invitation to Raffles Design Institute's Graduate Fashion Show, and realized that the city’s fashion frenzy is probably never ending.

This show was obviously a lot different to Shanghai Fashion Week. I saw about 15 collections from graduate students, some good, some not so good, and some, simply odd. I was still impressed, seeing that they are only just graduating. I believe at least some of them have got promising futures ahead. It was Raffles' (a Singaporean school) 15th group of graduates. With a growing fashion interest amongst young locals, I believe we are to see much more from Shanghai designers in the future.

I leave you with some pictures of their collections. Which one do you like the best?

1. Wizard from OZ-style
2. Pom-pom
3. Bohemian
4. Sexy sumo
5. Tailored
7. Fantasy
8. Style mix

9. Suicidal 
10. Camel
11. Cookie color collection
12. From another Galaxy
13. Chess

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Dazhao Temple, Hohhot

Hohhot's Dazhao temple traces back to 1580, however, in order to maintain its colorful looks I'm pretty sure it has been renovated numerous times. It's a lamaist temple, and we spent a good hour wondering around, ooohhhing and ahhhing at the beautiful Buddha statue and carvings.

New morning routine

Keen to become as fit as I was back in 2006.

Forgive my absence. I’ve stared a new habit, and I still need to work out how to fit blogging into it. See, last week was so insanely busy at work, and with the Expo around the corner I am pretty sure that the following weeks will be quite similar. So, I’ve started a new morning routine: namely 5km on the treadmill before work.

It’s actually not as bad as it sounds. I’ve been a morning person for as long as I can remember, and if I pack my bag the night before it’s simply the “getting out of bed” part that’s slightly hard; the rest comes by itself. Anyway, with this new habit I’m at the gym at 6.30 and then run for at least 30 min, before showering and getting ready for work. It’s a pretty good routine (not as hard to run during the mornings as I thought) but I am still to figure out how to squeeze blogging in on a more frequent level than twice a week (planning to do the morning work out 3 times/week).

Otherwise, life’s pretty good. I’ve started to feel human again after last week’s fashion fever. Ann-Sofie Back won an award for “Most Natural Fashion” by Shanghai Fashion Week at the closing party of Fashion Week on Tuesdays night. Go Back! I hope it’s not the last time we see a Swedish fashion designer in Shanghai.

Shanghai’s cold as a fridge. Like, really cold. I bet it’ll be summer any second now, and it will hit us without a single warning. Winter came late last year (not until December I would say), and it seems as we are about to skip spring for 2010 and head straight into summer.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Shanghai Fashion Week featuring Ann-Sofie Back

I've had the most mad, crazy, but also wonderful weekend! A lot of hard work has finally seen some fruitful results: last night, Swedish fashion designer Ann-Sofie Back showed at Shanghai fashion week! It was the first time a Swedish designer showed in Shanghai, and it was a big hit! The venue was so packed that people actually had to sit on the floor, struggling to keep their legs of the runway! 

And my involvement in the show?! Yeah, I bet you all think I work for the Back brand now -which I don't. Back is still to be established in China. However, they need good helpers on set, right? And that's where I come in. 

Ann-Sofie Back showing at Shanghai fashion week was part of a larger project that I've been working on for months: an exhibition called "Swedish Fashion -Exploring a New Identity," which showcases 13 relatively new fashion designers, that represent an alternative to the stereotypical picture of Swedish fashion as blonde, functional and minimal. The exhibition is currently running at River South Art Centre (an amazing old warehouse). If you’re in the neighbourhood I recommend you to go and have a look. It will be up until May 23.

Some pix from last night's action:

Showroom -Daniel Glasman from Ann-Sofie Back showing some clothes to the press
Hair and make-up
Shanghai Fashion Week's most packed catwalk so far -people had to sit on the floor next to the runway!
One of those pretty models that we picked during the casting some weeks ago. 
Grande finale look: The dress!
Muse 1

Muse 2
Daniel Glasman being interviewed in the press room after the successful show. What a night!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Inner Mongolian wrestling

Let's finish off this week with some testosterone. Have a good weekend everyone!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Snack time!

Those of you that have been following this blog for a while know about my passion for food. One of the best things about travelling in China is trying different local snacks! I had a great time doing just that in Inner Mongolia until Sunday afternoon, when I started feeling a bit strange. Moments later, I was sick as a dog. So unfortunately, I missed out on the Monday (+ Sunday evening/night) in Huhehaote, being bed bound due to the fact that I was not able to keep any food and feeling as if my last moment had come. I had some bad experience of food poisoning when I first came her, but since then I’ve been doing OK, so this came as a bit of a reminder. Oh well, at least I had time to try some of the yummy local snacks.

Mongolian fast food, and let me tell you one thing: this was so much better than Maccas! Greasy, sure, but cheap (19 rmb for all of the food above) and oh so good! Mutton sticks, yummy Mongolian bread filled with mutton and, of course, noodles. We didn't eat rice once in Mongolia, it was all about noodles and bread!  

Super popular fast food chain, which was oddly enough called "Sushi Beef Noodles." (the name obviously comes from the pinyin of the characters, but still) I can tell you this much: there was nothing even close to sushi in there! 

Hotpot -with a lot of mutton!

Inner Mongolian milk snacks
Milk tea
Milk candy
Milk... something?!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Xilamuren grasslands by horse

If you ever get a chance to go to Inner Mongolia: go horseback riding! Experiencing those vast grasslands (regardless if they are green or yellow) from the horseback is simply outstanding.

We left Hohhot early one morning in order to make it out to the grasslands of Xilamuren before the afternoon wind kicked in. The 2-hour car ride itself was quite interesting. As soon as we left Hohhot (we literally drove through a gate, and then all civilization was replaced by mountains, it was pretty cool!) I was reminded why I'd travelled to Inner Mongolia. As usual, I was something between excited and terrified about riding a car in the mountains, seeing that I’ve had my deal of bad car experiences in China, but the roads were dry and people actually kept the speed limit, so it went pretty smooth.

We arrived at a small village just after 10am, and quickly picked a Mongolian pony each. Riding alone was out of the question, seeing that neither my boyfriend nor me are experienced horseback riders (I used to ride as a kid until I fell off and got scared. It’s not until recent days when I’ve started enjoying it again), so a Mongolian man joined us with his pony. He immediately took a liking to me, who started off by asking:

-What’s the name of my horse?!

-Name? Haha! Well, it is 小红 “Xiao Hong”
(the little red one).

…and then, when he picked up his whip, getting ready to smack Xiao Hong:

-Don’t beat my pony! (别打我的马!)

Completely shocked by this comment he started laughing, although he actually took my advice and kept his whip away from Xiao Hong during our ride.

A few things about riding across the Mongolian grasslands in the beginning of April:

It was extremely windy and cold (it’s colder at the grasslands than in the city). Without our sunglasses and hats it wouldn’t have been possible.

Don’t let the size of those Mongolian ponies trick you –they can run pretty fast! We kept out ponies under control and received praises from our Mongolian guide for our riding skills (me: what skills?!), but I saw numbers of groups of Chinese tourists who had obviously never been on a horse before, and still set off galloping straight away. Eventually one girl and one boy actually fell off, and their horses disappeared across the hills. We trotted by them, noticing that the girl looked pretty bad and probably had to be taken to a hospital.

We rode for about 2 hours, then the wind got too strong and we turned back. The route was pretty “set out” and I suppose that's my only complaint about the experience. However, what was nice about it still was the feeling of complete freedom. The hills were far from green (more like yellow/brownish) and the lakes were frozen, telling us that we had chosen the wrong season for our ride, however, I liked the fact that we barely saw another soul during our ride, and that we could let our horses run across the hills without risking bumping into some other group of riders. Instead we rode past herds of cows and Mongolian ponies, some curiously running next to us for a while. Our Mongolian guide was also quite friendly, especially when he noticed that we could communicate in Mandarin.

I’ve already decided to go back up there, maybe not to the same spot and not during the same time of the year, but I’d like to go again. Then I would rent a horse for a longer period of time (5-7 days) and ride for days, spending the nights in a tent or in one of those small, cute, Mongolian huts that we passed numerous times. It would have to be during summer, however (July –my guide recommended), as the wind isn’t as strong then. And obviously not this year, but maybe 2011.

Before then, however, I need to work on my leg muscles because maaaaaaan… was I sore the 2 days after our little grassland adventure?! Eh, I could barely get out of bed! Haha!